The tactic of offsetting to go carbon neutral or net zero, in Australia at least, has lost popularity over the last ten years in favour of energy efficiency and renewable energy. But last month’s article on carbon and shipping, which highlighted Etsy’s promise to offset every shipment, signalled that there is life left in the tactic yet, and since then I have come across three more examples. It goes to show that carbon offsetting is definitely still an option for net zero, or carbon neutral… however you like to call it.
What is a little more surprising about the first two examples I am about to summarise is that they come from companies you would not necessarily expect to have net zero ambitions. When I was deep in the carbon and energy side of sustainability, I would have deprioritised approaching or focusing on these industries.
Bosch announces plans to achieve carbon neutrality
Hence, I read with enthusiasm a report in Environmental Leader that Bosch plans to go carbon neutral next year.
Its strategy is smart: buy carbon offsets and renewable energy certificates to achieve net zero first. Then, create and implement a plan to increase energy efficiency and renewables into its energy mix. This strategy is like an internal carbon price: the price of carbon is the cost of the offset, and any business case on low-carbon technology gets strengthened because it now includes the benefit of “spend $x less on carbon offsets”.
While working at Climate Friendly, and then managing the Climate Leadership module of the Sustainability Advantage program, I tried to recommend this strategy to companies. It was too new at the time, and case studies were few and far between. It is great that Bosch is looking like it will be another one.
Heidelberg Cement and carbon neutral concrete
Again, carbon neutral and concrete, an unlikely partnership. The industry itself contributes 5-10 percent of global total emissions! But in a way, that makes it a great story to share.
While Bosch is aiming for next year, Heidelberg is going for 2050, a difference in deadline of 30 years. That is according to a May article in GreenBiz. It says that on the way to 2050, it promises to “slash direct emissions by 15 percent per metric ton of its products by 2030 from 2016 levels… [and] also committed to cut indirect emissions, for example from its electricity supply, by 65 percent a metric ton within the same time-frame”. All as part of its signing to the Science Based Targets initiative. Inevitably, carbon offsetting needs to be part of this.
I hope that this global ambition filters down to local levels. For example, its Australian subsidiary Hansons, which I had worked with at some point on sustainability.
Player travel during the National Hockey League (NHL) playoffs first round, to be carbon offset
Finally, the NHL has decided to offset about 465 tonnes of carbon emissions, which represents all player travel from the first round of the playoffs. This is a classic small-step initiative with a nice story around one of the impacts of climate change being a shrinking skating season. This example shows that offsetting still works with a project level scope, as well as the whole-corporate-strategy scope of Bosch and Heidelberg Cement.